The 6-foot-7 Baxter was a consensus top-75 player coming out of Tallahassee, but originally signed with South Florida, which gave him his release from his National Letter of Intent just last week. He averaged 17 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game as a senior last year.
“I was really impressed with (Menzies) and his vision for the future,” Baxter told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday nights. “He wants to bring championships back to UNLV.”
The addition is certainly a welcome one for the Runnin’ Rebels who return just one forward, Dwayne Morgan, from last season while also bringing in St. John’s graduate transfer Christian Jones.
PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: No. 15 Oregon, UNLV take center stage
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 15 Oregon vs. UNLV, 11:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
For the second straight day the college basketball schedule is relatively light, and there’s no denying that the matchup between the Ducks and Runnin’ Rebels is the most intriguing contest. While the game will be played in Las Vegas it will be played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as opposed to the Thomas & Mack Center, which is being used for the National Finals Rodeo.
The Ducks, despite not having Jordan Bell or Dylan Ennis, have played well and have the look of a Pac-12 contender thanks to players such as Dylan Brooks, Elgin Cook, Chris Boucher and Tyler Dorsey. On the other side UNLV has just one loss, and with a Mountain West POY candidate in sophomore guard Patrick McCaw leading the way this group has the the depth and talent needed to get back to the NCAA tournament. This game will provide a nice résumé boost for the winner.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Pittsburgh vs. Duquesne, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
The Panthers will look to rebound from their loss to No. 11 Purdue with a win against the 6-1 Dukes, who are off to their best start since the 2007-08 season. Guards Derrick Colter and Micah Mason are combining to average nearly 37 points per game to lead the way for Jim Ferry’s team, which will need strong efforts on the glass from L.G. Gill and Darius Lewis if the Dukes are to beat Pitt. Pitt has won all five games in the series that have been played at the CONSOL Energy Center, and their rotation led by forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis and point guard James Robinson will be a test. Look for this edition of the “City Game” to be tight one.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 2 Maryland returns to action for the first time since their loss at No. 9 North Carolina, hosting Saint Francis (PA) in College Park. If there’s one player the Terrapins would like to get going its senior forward Jake Layman, who struggled in Chapel Hill. He’s still adjusting from being a mismatch at the four as he was last season to spending most of his time at the three, but he’s talented enough to make the transition.
2. The celebrations put forth by the Monmouth bench have been great, but don’t ignore the fact that King Rice’s Hawks are a pretty good team. Monmouth opens MAAC play with a game at Canisius, and a deep team led by point guard Justin Robinson will need to be at its best against the Golden Griffins. Jim Baron’s team has lost two straight, but they have five players scoring in double figures led by high-scoring guard Malcolm McMillan (23.6 ppg). The western New York swing can be a tough one in MAAC play, so Monmouth’s focus will be key.
3. Wake Forest hosts Arkansas in a matchup of teams hoping to work their way into the conversation in their respective conferences. The Demon Deacons managed to finish third at the Maui Invitational, and they’re off to a 5-2 start despite not having injured guard Codi Miller-McIntyre. Freshman Bryant Crawford has played well in Miller-McIntyre’s absence, and forwards Dinos Mitoglou and Devin Thomas can be a tough matchup in the front court. Arkansas had a lot to replace from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and while they’re still turning teams over the half-court defense has been a struggle.
4. Two of the best players whose highlights don’t garner major attention amongst casual fans will be on the same court in New York City, as DeAndre Bembry leads Saint Joseph’s up against Maodo Lo and Columbia. But this won’t be a one-on-one kind of game, with the Hawks boasting an improved Isaiah Miles (who is leading the team in scoring) and Columbia having three other players averaging double figures led by guard Alex Rosenberg.
5. Northern Illinois hasn’t played the most rigorous of schedules to this point, but they’ll put their 7-0 record on the line at Missouri. Mark Montgomery’s team has been successful thanks in part to their offensive balance, with five players averaging at least eight points per game (Aaric Armstead leads at 13.0 ppg) and forward Marin Maric (10.6, 7.9 rpg) having posted double-doubles in each of the last two games. That balance will be key on the road against a Missouri team led by freshman Kevin Puryear.
6. After managing to hold off UT-Arlington in overtime earlier this week Texas hosts 6-2 Samford. Scott Padgett’s team opened the season with a loss at No. 24 Louisville but have won six of their last seven with the lone defeat being by just one point at Austin Peay. Texas hasn’t been all that good on the defensive glass, as opponents have grabbed more than 42 percent of their misses, and it’s an area Shaka Smart’s team needs to address. Samford’s ranked 301st in adjusted offensive efficiency, which should benefit Isaiah Taylor and company.
Thursday night UNLV held its annual “Runnin’ Rebel Madness” event, taking Jerry Tarkanian Court to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center for a night outside. Fans were able to meet the men’s and women’s basketball teams and also take in three-point and dunk contests, with one of the judges for the dunk contest being Las Vegas native and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
And while it won’t mean much when it comes to wins and losses, UNLV may have the best group of dunkers in college basketball this season. Freshman forward Derrick Jones’ exploits have appeared on this site in the past, and to no one’s surprise he won last night’s dunk contest. But guard Jaylen Poyser and Ike Nwamu can get up as well, and 7-foot freshman Stephen Zimmerman’s no slouch either.
Above are highlights from the dunk contest, with MyLVSports responsible for the footage.
With three scholarship seniors in its backcourt rotation entering the 2015-16 season, UNLV had some holed to fill with regards to the Class of 2016. Dave Rice and his staff have managed to address this issue on the recruiting trail, and Wednesday evening the Mountain West program received its fourth verbal commitment in the Class of 2016.
6-foot-2 point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, announced that he will be a Runnin’ Rebel. Fisher, who attends Bolton HS in Memphis and played for the Team Thad grassroots program, picked UNLV over Memphis, Arkansas, Baylor and Indiana.
He joins fellow guard Christian Vital, wing Carlos Johnson and four-star forward Justin Jackson in UNLV’s 2016 recruiting class to date.
Adding Fisher to the mix gives UNLV another option at the point in 2016-17, with Daquan Cook due to be a redshirt senior that year with the two freshmen (Fisher and Vital) coming aboard. Fisher’s a good ball-handler and distributor who can also help UNLV defensively at the point. UNLV won’t lack for talent off the ball either, with sophomores Pat McCaw and Jordan Cornish having eligibility remaining as will current freshman Jalen Poyser.
And while the addition of Fisher is a positive for UNLV, having a talented player leave your city isn’t a good sign for Memphis especially when considering the pressure on head coach Josh Pastner to get the Tigers back to playing at the level their fan base expects them to play at.
As we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, let’s take a look at the head coaches who need to have a good season in order to feel safe. While the list of coaches on CBT’s “hot seat” have had poor seasons and lost their jobs before, keep in mind that the last two No. 1 selections for this list kept their jobs the following season, including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is currently thriving in College Park.
1. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana enters the 2015-16 season with top-25 talent and high expectations, but Crean finds himself atop the hot seat list for failing to meet expectations at Indiana. Crean’s now entering his eighth season as the Indiana head coach, and only once in the previous seven seasons — the 2012-13 season — have the Hoosiers been good enough to be considered a true title contender. That’s not enough, but not only is Crean struggling to find the success the Hoosier fan base craves on the floor, but the dismissal of three more players this offseason hasn’t made life any easier off the floor. Indiana’s president isn’t pleased with the off-the-court developments and many prominent Indiana alums have been vocal about the Hoosiers falling below expectations. A big season would go a long way towards quieting Crean’s doubters.
2. Josh Pastner, Memphis:Much like Crean at Indiana, Pastner has achieved success but faltered compared to a passionate fan base’s expectations. Memphis missed the postseason altogether for the first time in 15 years with last season’s 18-14 record and the team’s best returning player, Austin Nichols, transferred to Virginia, following Nick King and Pookie Powell out the door. Pastner is going to rely heavily on the freshman Lawson brothers to make a postseason appearance immediately, but in a city that became accustomed to the success of John Calipari’s Tigers, will they be satisfied if we’ve already seen Peak Pastner?
3. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech:After a 12-19 season and 14th place finish, Gregory is back for his fifth season at Georgia Tech. He’s never finished above ninth in the ACC. Gregory has coached one team to the NCAA tournament in his last 11 seasons and that came at Dayton in 2010. The local recruiting momentum is also limited for Georgia Tech under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets went 0-for-7 recruiting prospects from Georgia in the Rivals150 in the Class of 2015. In the Class of 2016, that number is 1-for-11.
4. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall:Entering his sixth season at Seton Hall, Willard has finished above .500 twice and owns a 30-60 mark in the Big East. Having never made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the pressure is on Willard to produce even though experienced guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina both transferred out of the program.
5. John Groce, Illinois: Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and that isn’t sitting well with Illini fans. Groce has never finished above seventh in the Big Ten and he hasn’t been able to reel in a lot of big-named recruits that Illinois finds itself a finalist for. Transfers like Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby haven’t lasted and proved to be harmful as replacements for those missed recruits. Illinois fans expect results and Groce needs to make the NCAAs again.
6. Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois:The once proud Southern Illinois program has had to endure Hinson’s three-year tenure. He’s thrown his own players under the bus during a postgame press conference and publicly remarked about his job security this spring. The Salukis own a 40-57 record and 19-35 mark in conference play under Hinson and he lost five transfers this offseason, three of them freshmen.
7. Donnie Jones, UCF:UCF was successful in Conference USA, but its been a rough back-to-back stretch for the program. Jones has never made the NCAA tournament and his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players. Jones was also suspended three CUSA games and the program put on probation. Now he’s 25-36 overall and 9-27 in the American the last two seasons.
8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State:It’s never a good sign when the team’s athletic director and biggest public booster, T. Boone Pickens, publicly have to back Travis Ford, which is precisely what happened in Stillwater this offseason. It’s a far worse sign that Ford owns no NCAA tournament wins since 2009 despite recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who both played for multiple seasons.
9. Dave Rice, UNLV: Rice has proven to be a formidable force on the recruiting trail, but that success has yet to translate on the Thomas and Mack Center court, as the Rebs have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. Rice was feeling the heat a little bit this offseason when rumors of Ben Howland looking at UNLV began swirling, but Howland is now at Mississippi State and Rice landed hometown McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman. Rice still doesn’t own any NCAA tournament wins, and with yet another talented recruiting class, he needs a strong season.
10. Kim Anderson, Missouri:Anderson’s first season at Mizzou was a disaster as the team went 9-23 and 3-15 in the SEC. It’s not looking much better in the future as the Tigers lost some key pieces — namely Jonathan Williams III and Teki Gill-Cesear — to transfer.
UNLV landed a three-star guard on Wednesday night as microwave Class of 2016 guard Christian Vital announced his decision on Twitter.
The 6-foot-2 Vital attends St. Thomas More and was also a combo guard for the loaded PSA Cardinals in the Nike EYBL. Showing an ability to hit shots from the perimeter and also score in bunches quickly off the bench, Vital averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this spring and summer in the EYBL.
Vital shot 40 percent from 3-point range and his ability to score off the bench could be very useful to UNLV early in his college career.
The commitment of Vital means that UNLV now has two commitments in the fold for the Class of 2016 as the Vital joins four-star forward Justin Jackson.